Jack Ma, Asia’s richest envisions the newspaper to leverage Alibaba’s technology & resources


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Ma: 20 more years of enviable growth for China

 

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Alibaba founder Jack Ma shares his views on the Chinese economy and the importance of entrepreneurship in supporting development.

CHINA’S economy will face “a difficult three to five years” but the slowdown will be good for its long-term development, Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) just before the e-commerce giant’s takeover of the 113-year-old newspaper.

Ma said the Chinese economy was indeed grappling with structural problems and that the authorities were working hard to steer it onto a new growth path.

But he dismissed fears that China would follow Japan’s route to stagnation, saying the country still had huge potential waiting to be tapped.

The rapid growth of China’s Internet economy and consumer culture could help the country through its temporary difficulties, Ma said.

China would likely continue to grow at a rate “enviable to most other major economies for 15 to 20 more years”, he said.

Ma gave the two-hour interview in Hangzhou, eastern Zhejiang province, during which he also discussed his vision for the SCMP, cultural differences between the east and west, and his concerns for Hong Kong’s next generation.

Commercial and residential buildings in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

China’s economy has been grappling with structural problems but Beijing is working hard to steer it onto a new growth path.

On China’s economy, the businessman said it was unrealistic to expect an economy of such scale to maintain double-digit growth indefinitely.

“There is no reason to expect that an economy of such size can maintain such a growth rate indefinitely, nor is it good for China to continue to grow at such speed,” Ma said.

“After more than 30 years’ growth, spending a few years to adjust its course is reasonable.

“Some say the actual (growth) number could be just 5%. But even with 5% growth, there is no other economy of such size growing at that speed in today’s world.”

Comparing China with an ocean liner, Ma said the Chinese leadership understood that the country’s old growth model was unsustainable and that they needed to chart a new course.

“It is easy for a small boat to change its course. But as the world’s second-largest economy, China is like an ocean liner… we have to choose either to not slow down and overturn the ship, or to slow a bit to make the turn,” he said.

The key was to create enough jobs to keep the economy stable and buy time so the country could complete its much-needed transformation, Ma said.

Fortunately for China, he said, the rise of its Internet economy happened at the right time.

China’s gross domestic product grows 6.7% in first quarter – a good start to 2016

“The traditional industries are struggling, but we also see growth in domestic consumption, the services industry and the hi-tech sector, and young talents are flocking to these areas,” he said.

“The logistics and delivery industries create plenty of jobs for low-skilled workers. We still have a lot of room for growth.”

Ma said the deciding factor in a true economic transformation would be the country’s ability to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit among the young and create an environment to help it flourish.

“I believe there will be some great enterprises arising from China,” he said.

“The monetary policy and supply-side reforms are very important and can help rejuvenate China’s economy.

“But to me, the most important thing is entrepreneurship. If this can flourish in China, China will become successful.”

China’s slowdown had triggered panic among foreign investors, with some choosing to leave the country.

But this actually created fresh opportunities, Ma said.

History had proven that those who bucked the trend to invest in China during difficult times always received good returns, he added.

“China needs to develop its rural areas; China needs to develop its cultural industry. It is also shifting focus to services and IT industries. There are still plenty of opportunities around,” Ma said.

Global media agency in the making

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In the second part of an interview with SCMP, Ma says he envisions the newspaper to leverage on Alibaba’s technology and resources.JUST why does Jack Ma want to own a newspaper, and what will he do with it?

Those are the biggest questions that have confronted readers of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) since news broke of Alibaba Group’s acquisition of the 113-year-old English-language newspaper late last year.

Now, for the first time since the Chinese e-commerce giant’s takeover earlier this month, Ma has outlined his vision for the newspaper.

The acquisition has raised eyebrows, with some suggesting that the SCMP – which has for decades been reporting aggressively on China – would change its direction.

A few even believed the newspaper might henceforth gloss over sensitive or controversial issues that risked incurring the wrath of the Chinese leadership.

In a face-to-face interview with the SCMP in Hangzhou, eastern Zhejiang province, Ma addressed these concerns, explaining why he believed in having a narrative on China that was different from that of both the mainstream Western media and Chinese state media.

“I don’t see it as an issue of (coverage) being ‘positive or negative’,” the Alibaba executive chairman said. “It is about being impartial and balanced… We should offer a fair chance to readers (to understand what is happening in China), not just a fair chance to China.”

China’s growth will remain enviable for the next 20 years, says Ma.

As a reader, Ma said, he valued the importance of obtaining unbiased information in order to draw his own conclusion based on the undistorted facts presented to him.

“I believe the most important thing for the media is to be objective, fair and balanced. We should not report a story with preconceptions or prejudice,” he said.

With its access to Alibaba’s resources, data and all the relationships in its ecosystem, the SCMP can report on Asia and China more accurately compared with other media who have no such access.

“Sometimes, people look at things purely from a Western or an Eastern perspective – that is one-sided. What the SCMP can do is to understand the big ‘why’ behind a story and its cultural context.

“I want to stress the importance of being fair to our readers. You should not impose your own view and prejudice on the readers and try to lead them to a conclusion. As a reader, I understand what a fair report is.”

The tech tycoon said his vision was to transform the SCMP into a global media agency with the help of Alibaba’s technology and resources.

Alibaba, the world’s biggest online trading platform, is aggressively developing big-data and cloud technology. Every day, it analyses and processes a massive volume of data that can provide powerful insight into the world’s second largest economy.

Ma reiterated his promise that Alibaba’s management would not take part in the SCMP’s newsroom operations. Rather, it wanted to represent readers’ interests and give feedback on how to improve readers’ experience, he said.

“As I said to Joe (Tsai), you are going to the SCMP as a representative of its readers. You don’t have to represent shareholders. You speak for the readers,” Ma said, referring to Alibaba’s executive vice-chairman who is now the chairman of the SCMP.

Ma, who last year unveiled a HK$1bil fund to help Hong Kong’s young entrepreneurs start up their businesses, said he invested in the newspaper because he “loves Hong Kong”.

Hong Kong was stuck in a rut and in danger of losing its direction, the billionaire said, urging Hong Kong’s youth to hold on to the city’s uniqueness and have faith in its future.

“The city has lost its can-do spirit. The big businesses are less willing to take risks. I talked to some young people in Hong Kong and they said they are lost. Young people indeed have fewer opportunities than before. But is it true that there are no more opportunities for them? No!” he said.

Hong Kong had many strengths that were unique to the city, Ma said.

“It has the best location. The ‘one country, two systems’ allows it to enjoy the good things from China’s growth and the best things from the West… The quality of Hong Kong’s graduates can match the finest from any other city. Its services industry is first class,” he said.

“Hong Kong people say Hong Kong needs to preserve its uniqueness. I say Hong Kong’s uniqueness is in its diversity, its tolerance of difference cultures… China does not want to see Hong Kong in decline. I have full confidence in its future.” – SCMP

By Chow Chung-Yan The Star

Related:

In talks: A photo illustration shows the South China Morning Post website displayed on a computer in Hong Kong. Jack Ma is in talks to buy a stake in the publisher of SCMP. – Reutersicon videoLet our readers see China from more angles and perspectives’

Bearish market: An employee is seen behind a glass wall with the logo of Alibaba at the company’s headquarters on the outskirts of Hangzhou. Alibaba is trading below its initial public offering price of US68 after plunging 20 in the past year as it grapples with slowing growth, the result of its reliance on a decelerating Chinese economy. — Reuters

 

 Jack Ma’s potential entry lends fire to SCMP

Cloud storage for personal files made safe


Utilise various services: As different Cloud services are suited to different types of files, it makes sense to spread your files out over several different Cloud storage providers. — Illustrations: MUHAMMAD HAFEEZ AMINUDDIN/The Star

Find the best space for your personal files on the Cloud.

In the movie Creed, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa character looks baffled when a young boxer snaps a picture of a handwritten exercise regime with his smartphone instead of just keeping the paper.

Balboa gets even more confused and looks skywards when the young boxer tells him it’s stored on the Cloud so that the information won’t be lost even if he loses his handphone.

It’s hard to deny the rising importance of Cloud computing in our daily lives, as most of the content, services, apps, and even enterprise systems today reside on the Cloud.

Most of us are probably aware of or have used services such as Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive.

These services, also known as public Cloud, requires little effort from you other than having to sign up for them.

Most are free and offer up to 15GB of space – if that’s not enough you can subscribe for a nominal sum to bump up storage space.

As these services are mostly operated by tech giants, you don’t have to worry about any of the technical stuff, but on the flipside, you don’t have much control over it.

If you wish to create your own Cloud, it’s now easier than ever as the price of devices and components ­needed to set up such a service have fallen a lot.

Also known as private Cloud, it allows you to keep your files within your own servers and manage them as you see fit.

It takes a bit of investment and know how – our accompanying story will help you decide if you should go for public or private Cloud.

Here we will explore the best public Cloud services so that you can pick one (or two or three) that meets your needs best.

Free and easy

Almost all the public Cloud offerings have a free option – they differ mostly in the size or additional services offered.

Our pick for the best free Cloud service is Google Drive, as you get 15GB without having to spend a single sen.

More importantly, Google has tied Drive to its online services such as Gmail, Photos and Keep, as well as ­productivity tools like Docs, Sheets and Slides.

So all your photos and documents will be synced automatically and will be available from one place.

If 15GB option is too limiting then you can opt to subscribe. For US$1.99 (RM8) a month, you get 100GB of ­additional space.

If you just want sheer volume then try out Mega which offers a whopping 50GB of space for free.

It doesn’t set a limit on file size like most of the other services, but we found the data transfer speed to be a bit slow.

Space for shutterbugs

It goes without saying digital cameras and smartphones in particular have made it easier than ever for everyone to shoot photos.

The real problem, however, is in managing your photos and finding a place to store them.

Most back them up to a desktop or laptop and while it’s better than not backing up at all, is not a good solution as all hard drives have a finite lifespan.

If you don’t have redundancy then you need to find a better solution in the Cloud and we recommend Flickr.

It gets our vote because it offers 1TB of space for free, which should meet the requirements of most users.

Photo size is capped at 200MB while video at 1GB for a single file which is reasonable.

It also has smart photo management which will automatically sort out ­images according to groups such as animals, people and buildings.

Free users will, however, see ads and will not be able to access the ­desktop app for uploading photos.

Like most services, it doesn’t support the uncompressed RAW file format which is preferred by photographers who use DSLRs.

If you like keeping your file as RAW, you will need a service like Amazon Cloud Drive which allows you to upload an unlimited number of ­photos, including RAW files.

Its Unlimited Photos plan will cost you US$11.99 (RM50) a year which is not too bad as RAW files take up a lot of space.

The unlimited offer doesn’t extend to other files, including video – for these files you are limited to only 5GB.

If you need to find space for your videos then you will have to opt for the more expensive plan called Unlimited Everything which costs US$59.99 (RM240) a year. This service, while expensive, lets you upload to your heart’s content.

Cross platform

Nowadays it’s not uncommon to own multiple devices running on different platforms.

If you have, say a MacBook Air for work, Windows PC at home and Android smartphone, you need a Cloud service that supports as many platforms as possible.

While the dominant operating systems – Windows, OS X, Android and iOS are usually supported, other operating systems such as Windows Phone and Linux are often overlooked.

Thankfully Dropbox doesn’t do that – it supports almost every platform, including the ones mentioned above. If you want an alternative, try Box, as it also works on many platforms except Linux.

By Lee Kah Leng The Star

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Foreign tech firms pose threat on Internet; World’s largest Internet hacker


Foreign Tech firms_ThreatsCompanies asked by Washington to use online services to spy on customers

Foreign technology services providers such as Google and Apple can become cybersecurity threats to Chinese users, security analysts said, one week after China announced that it will put in place a security review on imported technology equipment.

Other major tech companies, such as Yahoo, Cisco, Microsoft and Facebook, were required by the US National Security Agency to transfer their users’ information, according to Wan Tao, founder of Intelligence Defense Friends Laboratory, an independent institution focusing on cybersecurity in China.

Wan said that online services have become a major way for the US to steal information globally.

Foreign tech firms pose threat on Internet

Foreign tech firms pose threat on Internet

Ning Jiajun, a senior researcher at the Advisory Committee for State Informatization, said, “Previously, the US asked companies to install wiretapping software on their technological products, but if users found and shut down related functions, its ‘plan’ would fail,” he said.

For instance, information on a Chinese organization can be stolen when it places an order on an international shopping website, he said.

With technologies such as cloud computing and big data getting popular, information can be collected and analyzed immediately, which means the damage can be much greater and more difficult to prevent, analysts said.

“It can be said that those who master online services can get more information in cyberspace,” said Du Yuejin, director at the National Engineering Laboratory for Cyber Security Emergency Response Technology.

Last month, China’s Internet Media Research Center issued a report saying the NSA makes use of large technology companies for its wiretapping plans, including Prism, which was unmasked by former NSA intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, asking them to collect information on their users and urging them to hand in the data regularly.

The report also said that the NSA has taken iOS and Android, two leading mobile operating systems applied to iPhone and Samsung, as the “gold mine” of data.

The NSA grabbed users’ information and stored most of it for analysis by invading database and communication networks of Yahoo and Google, while it has also controlled applications on smartphones with Britain, said the report released at the end of May.

“The US, in fact, could get these users’ information or conduct the wiretapping by attacking the network instead of ‘cooperating’ with the enterprises, but it might take more time and money,” said Wan.

The actions of the NSA have put huge pressure on US technology companies, as customers from Paris to Sao Paulo and from Beijing to Berlin worry about their privacy being invaded.

US President Barack Obama held two discussions with CEOs of major US technology companies in the past six months about the NSA snooping, which led to a “reform” of the NSA to focus on protecting US citizens’ privacy, but with little improvement on foreign organizations and citizens.

In May, John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems, wrote a letter to Obama urging Washington to stop using the company for surveillance of its customers, according to an Al Jazeera report.

Foreign tech firms pose threat on InternetWeb security firms pledge to patch XP ‘vulnerability’ 

Foreign tech firms pose threat on InternetIBM ‘unaware’ of server ban 

– Contributed By CAO YIN (China Daily)

World’s largest Internet hacker

The spying actions of the US have underscored the urgency of formulating common rules for activities in cyberspace

Last month, the United States Attorney-General Eric Holder announced the indictments of five Chinese military personnel on cyber espionage charges, accusing them of hacking into US companies in the nuclear power, metals and solar products industries. This has seriously compromised relations with China and sabotaged the bilateral cybersecurity cooperation that had been put back onto a normal track after overcoming setbacks.

With the indictments, the US has tried to present itself as the largest victim of cyberattacks, when in fact it is the Cold War mentality and troublemaking of the US that have precipitated the instability and insecurity in cyberspace. If the US doesn’t change its behavior, all peoples in the world may become victims of Internet insecurity.

In June 2013, Edward Snowden, a former US National Security Bureau contractor, revealed US intelligence agencies were conducting large-scale network spy programs, such as PRISM, Xkeyscore and others, across the world. His disclosures indicated the omnipotence of the US’ Internet surveillance and cyberattacks, which range from spying on communication metadata and backbone networks to the monitoring of short message services, instant messaging and video chats; from spying on ordinary people to spying on enterprises, universities, military units and even heads of state, not to mention the revelations about the US’ cyber warfare capabilities.

Aside from its cyber command that has been rapidly growing, the US’ marine, land and air forces have also set up their own cyber headquarters. Cyber combat capabilities are already regarded as part of the weaponry of the US’ fighting forces. A series of US cyber combat programs have been revealed, from Stuxnet to Fslame and X-Plan, all of which indicate that the US has mastered more complicated means and more threatening abilities than other countries in terms of cyberattacks.

The latest indictments against the five Chinese military personnel have also reminded people of a series of previous cyber espionage claims against China by the US. In February 2013, Mandiant, a US cybersecurity firm, released a report accusing China’s military of plotting hacker attacks against US enterprises. After that, many in the US, including the president and senior government officials, expressed a tough stance toward China and threatened economic sanctions against it. Some even suggested that US enterprises “hacked” by China should make cyber counterattacks in retaliation. Such groundless accusations of Chinese cyberattacks have drastically tainted the US’ domestic political environment toward China and also frozen cybersecurity cooperation between the two countries.

The Chinese government has consistently advocated a new type of major-power relations with the US, and it has refrained from overreacting to Washington’s “threatening signals”. Even after the Snowden revelations, the Chinese government still adhered to the principles of no-conflict, no-confrontation, mutual respect and mutually beneficial cooperation, and it is actively pushing for cooperation with the US in cybersecurity and working for the establishment of a cybersecurity work panel under the Sino-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue framework.

All the evidence indicates that it is the US that is the world’s largest Internet hacker and that the global cyber arms race triggered by the US’ actions poses the largest threat to global cybersecurity. The US has so far cited “for the sake of national security” as the only excuse for its pervasive Internet espionage. The US should know that a country cannot put its national security above the interests and national security of other countries and the basic norms of international relations. The double standards the US has embraced in cybersecurity have damaged its credibility and compromised its image as a responsible power.

To enjoy the dividends of the booming Internet sector and communication technologies, cyberspace must be peaceful, safe, open and cooperative. Cyberspace should not be a field for either a cold or hot war, and the latest developments have once again underscored the importance and urgency for formulating common rules for cyber activities.

The US indictments of the Chinese military personnel are not conducive to global efforts to maintain the stability and security of cyberspace. The US, by taking advantage of its technological and military dominance, has established a cyber hegemony. It is hoped the US can lead the global Internet sector to develop in a healthy direction, as it once spearheaded the progress of Internet technologies for human progress.

– Contributed By Tang Lan (China Daily) The author is deputy director of the Institute of Information and Social Development Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

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US-China cyber-battles intensify


The United States has accused some Chinese of hacking into American companies’ computers but the US itself has been engaging in massive spying of foreign companies and trade officials.

Reports of US spying have sparked anger in many countriesUS spying vs China

WE live in a world where “spying” by electronic means is now pervasive and practically no one or institution that uses telephones, smart phones, emails and the internet is protected from intelligence gathering.

This much we know, from the media revelations emerging from files leaked by Edward Snowden, a former contractor with the US National Security Agency.

They showed that the US has been tapping the telephones and emails of Americans and others around the world in a sweeping and systematic way.

It was revealed that even the top political leaders of Germany, Indonesia and Brazil had their mobile phones tapped, leading their countries to protest against such a bold intrusion of privacy and national security.

Last week, the intelligence issue was highlighted again when the US Justice Department indicted five individuals who are members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

They were accused of hacking into the computers of American companies in the nuclear power, steel, aluminium and solar power industries to obtain trade secrets for the benefit of Chinese state owned enterprises.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman denounced the allegations as baseless and said China “never engages in the activity of stealing commercial secrets through the internet”, and accused the US of hypocrisy.

It is common knowledge that intelligence agencies use all kinds of devices to gather information and spy on foreigners as well as their own citizens.

The US has the most sophisticated system with the broadest coverage, as the Snowden files revealed.

By charging China of spying on specific American companies for the commercial benefit of Chinese enterprises, the US was trying to draw a very fine line.

It would have been clearly double standards to accuse other countries of spying on government personalities or agencies or on civilians, as the US itself has been shown to be more systematically doing this than any other country.

In announcing the indictment on the five Chinese, the US Attorney General said the hacking was conducted to advantage Chinese enterprises, a tactic that the US denounces.

“We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to US companies, or US commercial sectors.”

But in fact the US does spy on companies and trade policy makers and negotiators of other countries, presumably in order to obtain a commercial advantage.

Two articles by David Sanger in the New York Times last week commented on the “fine line” the US attempts to draw between spying for the benefit of specific companies, and for overall commercial advantage.

He gave examples of revelations of US agencies targeting foreign companies.

These include Huawei, a major Chinese internet and communications company.

According to his article, the Snowden documents showed that one purpose of this spying was to “get inside Huawei’s systems and use them to spy on countries that buy the company’s equipment.

“Huawei officials said they failed to understand how that differed meaningfully from what the United States has accused the Chinese of doing.

The US agency also hacked into the computers of Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company, which has data on Brazil’s offshore oil reserves and perhaps its plans for allocating licences for exploration to foreign companies. State owned oil companies in Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Africa are also intelligence targets.

The NSA also went into the computers of China Telecom, one of the largest providers of mobile phone and Internet services in Chinese cities, and Pacnet, the Hong Kong-based operator of undersea fibre optic cables.

“Once inside those companies’ proprietary technology, the NSA would have access to millions of daily conversations and emails that never touch American shores,” said Sanger.

The NSA spied on Joaquín Almunia, the antitrust commissioner of the European Commission, who had brought charges against several US companies.

In each of these cases, American officials insist the US was never acting on behalf of specific American companies, but the government does not deny it routinely spies to advance American economic advantage as part of national security, said the Sanger article.

This includes spying on European or Asian trade negotiators, using the results to help American trade officials and thus the American industries and workers they are trying to bolster.

According to Sanger, the United States spies regularly for economic advantage when the goal is to support trade talks. When the US was negotiating in the 1990s to reach an accord with Japan, it bugged the Japanese negotiator’s limousine and the main beneficiaries would have been US auto companies and parts suppliers.

The US is also “widely believed to be using intelligence in support of trade negotiations underway with European and Asian trading partners. But in the view of a succession of Democratic and Republican administrations, that is fair game.”

An earlier New York Times article, citing Snowden documents, also revealed that the US and Australian agencies gathered intelligence on Indonesia and a law firm acting for it during US-Indonesia trade negotiations.

This line the US is attempting to draw between what is illegitimate (spying to benefit particular companies) and legitimate (spying to broadly benefit companies and the economy) is not appreciated nor accepted by other countries.

The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Contributed by Global Trends Martin Khor
Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre since 1 March 2009. He replaced Dr. Yash Tandon who was the Executive Director of the South Centre from 2005-2009

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New security structure needed: Trust, collaboration key to Asian security


CICA Shanghai

The fourth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), under the theme of “enhancing dialogue, confidence and coordination, and on jointly constructing a new Asia with peace, stability and cooperation,” was held in Shanghai Wednesday. Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech calling for a proactive outlook on Asian security and a new security cooperation framework. The intertwined key words have sketched the contours of this summit.

When it comes to Asia, scholars from all around the world will focus on two phenomena: economic growth and security dilemma. The economic development of Asia has promoted the interdependence and integration of interests among nations in this region, which constitute the resources of Asian security at the present stage. Meanwhile, many Asian countries feel insecure, which has little to do with a country’s size and strength. Though it is a large and powerful Asian state, China doesn’t have a better sense of security than smaller countries.

With a myriad of leftover conundrums, Asian countries have become interest-conscious as quickly as economic growth. Nonetheless, Asia is in dire need of an efficient security mechanism as well as common consensus to achieve it.

Asia has long been affected by external forces and in particular the US to a large degree. Washington has forged military alliances with several Asian countries and sometimes targeted a third party, making it all the more difficult for Asia to entirely cast off the specter of the Cold War. The US “rebalancing to Asia” policy conforms to its global strategy, inevitably increasing the cost of achieving Asian security.

Across the fairly intricate tapestry of Asian security, there is no difference between small and big powers in terms of security guarantee. Various messages further fuel contradictions and disorders in the region and add to strategic uncertainty.

Asian countries need to distinguish between realities and wishes and learn to compromise. It is unrealistic for some countries to quit counting on Washington in the short term but all Asian nations should recognize Uncle Sam cannot tide them over the security dilemma. Therefore, they should divert more attention to coordinating security concerns among themselves.

Security in Asia will eventually be realized through increasing mutual trust and cooperation in this region. We welcome external powers to play a constructive role in this process but object to their biased interference that will only increase the possibility of regional conflicts.

China is a rarely patient country in the world and spares no efforts to promote peace, which is a starting point and pillar for permanent peace in Asia. Resolution to safeguard peace may constitute the invisible bottom line despite numerous potential flashpoints in Asian security. – Global Times

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The Obama government will now be forever remembered not just as the “we spy” government but as the “we spy and lie” government. Spy charges expose U.S. cyber hegemony mentality

The United States has indulged in its cyber hegemony mentality again as it filed ungrounded commercial cyber espionage charges against five Chinese military officers.

Chinese Ambassador CuiTiankai on May 20 accused the United States of hypocrisy for charging five Chinese nationals of alleged commercial espionage, citing EdwardSnowden’s revelations of US spying operations worldwide.
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Malware, ransomware attacks are a growing threat to computer and mobile phone!


Ransonware-money-dataFORGET pickpockets or thieves. The biggest threat to your smartphone now is kidnappers cyber “kidnappers” that is, with their Ransomware.

As the name suggests, ransomware is a malware (malicious software) that will keep your phone or computer a prisoner until you pay a ransom. Only when the specified amount of money is paid will you be able to “free” your device and access data or information.

Although it is not new ransomware is said to originate from Russia in 2005 and has been attacking many computers worldwide since the Symantec Corp Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR) Volume 18 revealed that ransomware is emerging as the malware of choice because of its high profitability for attackers.

Luckily, says Symantec Malaysia’s senior technical consultant David Rajoo, to his knowledge, no cases have been reported here yet.

“However, as the worldwide web has no boundaries and with increasing broadband penetration and as more users are accessing the Internet, Malaysia is certainly exposed to the Ransomware threats,” he says.

Infected machines display messages which demand payment in order to restore functionality. - David Rajoo Infected machines display messages which demand payment in order to restore functionality. – David Rajoo

Rajoo points out that awareness is key to combat ransomware threat.

As the report highlights, attackers are using deceptive links and poisoned websites to infect unsuspecting users with malicious software and lock their machines.

“The attackers, many of them cybercriminal organisations, then hold users’ machines for ransom. Infected machines display messages which demand payment in order to restore functionality,” he tells.

Recent attacks have also displayed images that impersonate law enforcement.

Consumers on the Android platform are most vulnerable to ransomware and mobile threats, says the report.

Last year, mobile malware increased by 58%, and 32% of all mobile threats attempted to steal information, such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

Although Android has fewer vulnerabilities, its threats are higher than any other mobile operating system. Its open platform and the multiple distribution methods available to distribute malicious apps make it the go-to platform for attackers, adds the report.

With malware growing sophisticated every day, Rajoo adds, a mix of intelligence-based technologies can provide optimal security to stop new and unknown malware.

To avoid getting infected, ensure the device’s software and anti-virus definitions are up to date, and avoid suspicious sites, Rajoo advises.

“We also advise users to use more than antivirus for protection. We recommend using advanced reputation security which provides layered defence. Use more than just Antivirus use a full functionality solution which includes heuristics, reputation-based, behaviour-based and other technologies,” he says, stressing that a key strategy is to fend off threats before they infiltrate your computer system.

Symantec Malaysia’s Systems Engineering director Nigel Tan agrees that stopping the threat at the gate is important as cyber criminals continue to devise new ways to steal information from organisations of all sizes.

Staying ahead of attacks

“The sophistication of attacks coupled with today’s information technology complexities require organisations in Malaysia and globally to remain proactive and use “defence in depth” security measures to stay ahead of attacks,” he added.

According to the annual ISTR which analyses the year in global threat activity, Malaysia was ranked 35th on its global Internet security threat profile in 2012.

As it highlights, there was a 42% surge last year in targeted attacks globally compared with the prior year.

These targeted cyberespionage attacks, designed to steal intellectual property, are increasingly hitting the manufacturing sector as well as small businesses, which are the target of 31% of these attacks.

Small businesses are attractive targets themselves and a way in to ultimately reach larger companies via “watering hole” techniques.

In a watering hole attack scenario, attackers compromise a carefully selected website by inserting an exploit resulting in malware infection. Through the compromised website, the attackers will target victims who visit the compromised site and take advantage of their software vulnerabilities to drop malware that will allow them to access sensitive data and take control of the vulnerable system.

As Symantec alerts, 61% of malicious websites are actually legitimate websites that have been compromised and infected with malicious code.

Business, technology and shopping websites were among the top five types of websites hosting infections. The shift of focus from government websites indicates an increase in attacks targeting the supply chain cybercriminals find these contractors and subcontractors susceptible to attacks and they are often in possession of valuable intellectual property.

The attack uses the security weaknesses in the supply chain specifically the small businesses to gain access into larger and more secured companies, adds Symantec.

Case in point is that those in sales became the most commonly targeted victims last year.

Another growing source of infections on websites is malvertisements this is when criminals buy advertising space on legitimate websites and use it to hide their attack code.

Tan urges organisations to continue to take proactive initiatives to secure and manage critical information from a variety of security risks, especially targeted attacks in the manufacturing and small business sectors, mobile malware, and phishing threats.

By HARIATI AZIZAN sunday@thestar.com

We need competent leaders!


LeaderCompetent leader vital for Information, Communications and Culture Ministry  

The candidate should be someone well rounded, well experienced, not too old or too young

FOR some time now, there has been talk on whether culture is a good fit for the Information, Communications and Culture Ministry (MICC). Some believe culture would be better off parked under the Tourism Ministry.

Culture and tourism, to them, are lines out of the same song not quite jiving with communications or information.

Then, there is talk of some areas of duplication between MICC and the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (Mosti). Both should merge as there are common areas, it has been said.

These ministries aside, some folk have been lobbying that a new ministry, the Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) Ministry, be set up with the MICC being done away with.

All this talk has resurfaced now that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, fresh off his election win, is busy selecting candidates for his new Cabinet line-up that might be announced in the coming days.

There is certainly some overlap between Mosti and MICC, making sense for them to be merged into one entity. Arts, on the other hand, could be part of the Youth and Sports Ministry or spun off into a new ministry under Arts and Heritage.

It is not an easy decision, but whatever the outcome, one things is for sure Malaysia’s Cabinet should not be bigger than China’s, which has a population of 1.6 billion, as opposed to our 28 million.

Australia and Singapore have gone though the same phase that Malaysia is going through now in terms of merging and segregating its various ministries. In 2001, Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) was expanded to include Arts.

Over a decade later, the Arts and Heritage portfolios became a part of the culture ministry. At present, the role of the MCI is to oversee the development of the ICT, media and design sectors, public libraries and the government’s information and public communications policies.

On a similar note, Australia expanded its Communications Ministry to include Arts in 1994. Four years later, the ministry expanded to include information technology (IT).

However, in 2007, Arts became a part of the Environment/Heritage Ministry. The Communications/IT Ministry was renamed as the Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy.

Even the United Nations has a specialised agency to deal with technology in the form of the International Telecommunication Union because the role of the Internet and broadband transcends all boundaries.

The vision of Malaysia’s MICC is to be a pioneer in promoting the 1Malaysia Concept based on national principles to achieve a harmonious and gracious nation. The ministry’s main aspiration is to enhance Malaysia as a global ICT hub in the region, to ensure information from all sources of media is accurate and precise and to preserve and promote Malaysia’s heritage and culture to the world.

Culture preservation is vital in the era of the social media, but once there is widespread awareness, culture can be placed under the Arts, Culture and Heritage Ministry, or could even be one of the units under the Prime Minister’s Department or the Tourism Ministry.

There are even suggestions that MICC be part of the Prime Minister’s Department so that it would fall directly under the Prime Minister’s purview. However, whether this is feasible remains to be seen.

Communications and information have become vital because of the digital era, and their role in Malaysia might need to be reviewed. Australia and Singapore felt the “need to change because of the need to redistribute and re-focus its ministerial workload to improve public communications and engagement for an increasingly diverse society in the age of social media and rapid technology progress”.

All this brings us to the next question: Who is best to lead the MICC?

There are many talented people out there, but the industry feels the choice of candidate should encompass someone “well rounded, well experienced, but not too old or too young”. The person, while having sound knowledge of Law and Economics, should also fulfil the most important criterion being savvy enough about the workings of the Internet and the new/social media.

The choice of candidate is important because there is no room for mistakes, unlike the blunders made in the past over spectrum allocation and technology choices. Most importantly, the candidate should not regress but rather, take the nation forward on the digital path.

Friday Reflections – By B.K. Sidhu

Deputy news editor B K Sidhu has some candidates in mind, but they are not politicians.

 Related posts:

IPTV market in Malaysia

This is what the Malaysian Chinese want

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